Born in Detroit, MI, Skerritt was raised by his father, Roy, the owner of a small business, and his mother, Helen, a homemaker. Spending his entire youth growing up in the Motor City, he graduated from David Mackenzie High School in 1951. Skerritt heard the call of duty right after high school and spent the next four years of his life in the United States Air Force. By the time he was 21, he had married his first wife and had his first child. Though he tried his hand at acting while attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Skerritt moved across the country to matriculate at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he continued to train as an actor. Spotted while performing in a production of "The Rainmaker," he made his feature debut in "War Hunt" (1962), an independently-made film about the Korean War that was notable for marking the first time both Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack also appeared on screen. That same year, Skerritt made his television debut in the World War II series, "Combat!" (ABC, 1962-67), which led to prolific work in episodic television during the early years of his acting career.On the small screen, Skerritt landed episodes of "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" (CBS, 1962-65), "My Three Sons" (ABC, 1960-1972), "Bonanza" (NBC, 1959-1973) and the "The Fugitive" (ABC, 1963-67), while appearing in longer-running arcs on "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-1975), "Twelve O'Clock High" (ABC, 1964-67), "The FBI" (ABC, 1965-1974) and "The Virginian" (NBC, 1962-1971). Skerritt appeared in one of his first recurring roles on "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Disney" (ABC, 1954-1990). He went on to appear in nine episodes of the series, which aired between 1965 and 1967. Three years later, Skerritt landed his first notable film role in Robert Altman's Korean War comedy "M*A*S*H." (1970). Portraying Capt. Augustus Bedford 'Duke' Forrest in the film, Skerritt's role was reportedly pared down considerably by the irascible director. It did help garner him attention, however, and Skerritt went on to appear in the cult classic "Harold and Maude" (1971) and once again in an Altman project with "Thieves Like Us" (1974). In 1977, Skerritt portrayed Shirley MacLaine's husband, Wayne, in the Academy Award-nominated drama "The Turning Point." Winning his first career accolade for his thoughtful performance in "Point," Skerritt was named Best Supporting Actor by the National Board of Review.Skerritt next landed the starring role of Dallas, ill-fated captain of the doomed spaceship Nostromo in Ridley Scott's classic sci-fi flick, "Alien" (1979). After meeting his maker in the crawl space of the Nostromo, Skerritt went on to star as Dr. Thomas Ryan in the short-lived, but critically-acclaimed medical drama "Ryan's Four" (ABC, 1983). He followed up by landing a role in his biggest film to date, playing Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf, who helps train Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) in "Top Gun" (1986). Skerritt and the rest of the cast had no idea the film would become the pop cultural phenomenon that it eventually became - aside from inspiring boys to become U.S. Navy fighter pilots, the film catapulted Cruise into the biggest movie star in the world and raised the profile of all involved, including Skerritt, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer. Skerritt's participation in the hit film would even help land the rugged, mustachioed actor a Guess? Jeans ad campaign. An adept comedic actor, Skerritt surprised fans by appearing in a hilarious recurring role on "Cheers" (NBC, 1982-1993), playing multi-millionaire Evan Drake, love interest of Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley), starting in 1988. Taking up residence behind the camera, Skerritt directed the after-school special, "A Question of Sex" (ABC, 1990), which addressed the topic of teaching birth control in high school. As an actor, Skerritt continued to impress with supporting roles in the films "Steel Magnolias" (1989), "The Rookie" (1990), "Poison Ivy" (1992) and Robert Redford's "A River Runs Through It" (1992). Returning to television as a leading man, Skerritt earned his biggest acclaim with a starring in the Emmy Award-winning "Picket Fences" (CBS, 1992-96), created by David E. Kelly. Portraying Sheriff Jimmy Brock, who struggled to maintain order in the odd community of a fictional Wisconsin town, Skerritt won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1993. A high point in Skerritt's career, the series also offered him the opportunity to direct a number of episodes before the series was cancelled in 1996. Moving on, Skerritt went on to direct the television movie "Divided by Hate" (USA, 1997), in which he also starred as a manipulative, neo-Nazi preacher. Returning primarily to acting, Skerritt appeared alongside Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in the Robert Zemeckis film "Contact" (1997), portrayed an over-protective father in "The Other Sister" (1999), and co-starred opposite Bruce Willis in Antoine Fuqua's "Tears of the Sun" (2003). Returning to the small screen, Skerritt costarred in "The Grid" (Fox/BBC, 2004), an epic four-part miniseries about British and American anti-terrorism units banding together to root out an al-Qaida cell that perpetrated an attack on London. In 2006, after playing a retired admiral called back to duty after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in "Homeland Security" (NBC, 2004), Skerritt joined the cast of Showtime's acclaimed drama "Huff" (2004-06), portraying Hank Azaria's neglectful father, Ben Huffstodt. Though the role was originally played by Robert Forster, Skerritt was brought in during the second season to carry on the role. Skerritt also appeared as John Edward Marinville in the Stephen King miniseries "Desperation" (ABC, 2006). In a bit of slight-of-hand, Skerritt appeared in the pilot episode of "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 2006-11), playing the patriarch of a family that owns a successful produce distributor who dies from a heart attack. Though killed off in the first episode, Skerritt's character appeared from time to time in flashbacks over the course of the popular show's run. Meanwhile, he co-starred in several made-for-television movies, including "Killer Wave" (ION, 2007), "Vinegar Hill" (CBS, 2008) and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (ION, 2008), which he followed by co-starring opposite Kate Beckinsale in the big screen bomb, "Whiteout" (2009).